The reader will say with truth,––"I knew all this before and have always acted more or less on these principles"; and I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not 'more or less,' but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated. I suppose the difficulties are of the sort that Lister had to contend with; every surgeon knew that his instruments and appurtenances should be kept clean, but the saving of millions of lives has resulted from the adoption of the great surgeon's antiseptic treatment; that is from the substitution of exact principles scrupulously applied for the rather casual 'more or less' methods of earlier days.Earlier this week I admitted on a CM social media group that I am a CM purist. I felt a bit silly at the time - stuck up, pious and inflexible, because even though it was a CM group, it seems that I was the only one, and I felt strange, as if being a purist was somehow a bad thing, and something to be ashamed of. Now the fact I choose to homeschool this way did not mean that I was saying that all the other mothers were wrong - no siree. It is not up to me to tell them how to educate their children. I will say, though, that there comes a point when it is no longer a CM education, but an unschooling education, or a child-led one, or a unit studies education. Using a list of living books does not a CM education make. Nor does nature study and classical music and tea time.
Whether the way I have sketched out is the right and the only way remains to be tested still more widely than in the thousands of cases in which it has been successful; but assuredly education is slack and uncertain for the lack of sound principles exactly applied.
Charlotte Mason Towards a Philosophy of Education p20-21
I am a purist because in my experience, the closer I adhere to CM's philosophy, the better it works. Now this does not mean that I teach a curriculum. Not at all. I teach my child. The beautiful, smart, strong-willed, sassy Jemimah. But I teach her using CM's methods as well as I can.
During past weeks I've been travelling around America visiting members of AO's Advisory and Auxiliary. All of these families would be considered CM purists, I guess. And there are some things that make the families very similar. All are conservative Christian (although not all CM families are.) All have wonderful bookshelves filled with delicious living books on a wide variety of subjects. All use AO - duh. What I did not find, though, was a collection of Jemimah clones. She was fairly similar in many ways to E-Age-11, and in other ways to Miss M. ( Interestingly, I don't think E-Age-11 and Miss M are alike at all. Jemimah just fits bang in the middle.) She had a similar sense of humour to M2 and G2, and found a BFF in Riley. Some of the kids were bookish; others not so much. Some loved the outdoors; others preferred the indoors. Some watched telly, some enjoyed Minecraft, some played piano, some loved silly songs. Some were gifted, others were not.
And do you know, a CM education will look different for every one of these children. Brandy talks a bit about this in her family here, when she looks at how to modify AO for her less bookish second child.
I would remark on the evenness with which the power of children in dealing with books is developed. We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can. The child of genius and imagination gets greatly more than his duller comrade but all sit down to the same feast and each one gets according to his needs and powers.Miss Mason talks here about exposing children to a great feast of ideas, and how each child will assimilate what he is able. All true, but when there are only one or two guests at a table, the feast will look quite different from the feast at a table for 10. In similar ways, the feast Tammy spreads before her daughter with autism will be quite different from the feast I spread for Jemimah, or from the one spread for Miss M, or the one spread for Riley. At yet all of us are CM purists. Charlotte Mason's methods don't just work for some children - they work for all. It is how the feast is presented that differs, that is the key.
The surprises afforded by the dull and even the 'backward' children are encouraging and illuminating. We think we know that man is an educable being, but when we afford to children all that they want we discover how straitened were our views, how poor and narrow the education we offered. Even in so-called deficient children we perceive,––
"What a piece of work is man . . . In apprehension, how like a god!"
Charlotte Mason Towards a Philosophy of Education p 182-3
Some of the things I am able to do with Jemimah are not up to CM's standards. You know the struggle that we have with spelling for example, and so I am continually modifying how we do things here. But I don't move away from CM - I look for ways that allow me to incorporate her methods. I am thankful that poor spelling doesn't mean poor other things like it would if she were in school. I am thankful that Jemimah's spelling does not hold her back. Other kids are slow learning to read. CM works for them too. It works for Tammy's daughter.
I am so grateful that I found CM at the beginning of my daughter's journey. I am so thankful that I was able to make this gentle, rigorous, liberal, Christian, academic education ours. Our CM might not look like your CM, but her methods do work for children of all shapes and sizes. The creed and the colour and the name don't matter.
My name is Jeanne, and I am a CM purist. And I'm glad.